Students to return to El Salvador this summer

Tue, 05/25/2010 (All day)

May 25, 2010

MOBILE, Ala. – Two members of the class of 2011 at Spring Hill College will travel to El Salvador this summer. In February, Cory Bronenkamp of St. Louis, Mo., and Michael Lysek of Summerdale, Ala., participated in an immersion trip with Campus Ministry to El Salvador. They were so moved by their experiences in Central America that they arranged to revisit El Salvador over the summer break.

Bronenkamp, an English major, and Lysek, a biology/pre-medicine major, depart for El Salvador May 31. Bronenkamp plans to stay until June 18 and Lysek until July 3.

On their first visit to El Salvador, the students worked with CRISPAZ, Christians for Peace in El Salvador, an organization that facilitates immersion encounters. The group visited El Salvador on the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

During the weeklong trip, Bronenkamp and Lysek lived in solidarity with the Salvadoran people, including a two-night stay in the rural village of Guarjila. There, the students met two bright young Salvadorans, Chamba Navarro Palm, 18, and Mario Lopez Otero, 19.

“It didn't take very long to recognize their desire to learn and go on to the next level of schooling, as one of the kids, Mario, even taught himself how to speak English,” Bronenkamp said.

“The experience in Guarjila, including meeting Mario, made me realize the potential that was present in El Salvador,” Lysek said. “People are overlooked simply because of their social status, and this was very present in Guarjila. It makes me think of what type of untapped potential is present in the small towns of El Salvador, and even in San Salvador and the U.S.”

Bronenkamp and Lysek’s objective this summer is to secure housing for Mario and Chamba so they can attend the University of San Salvador. While the young men can receive an inexpensive education, they do not have the means to pay for room and board in the city.

“Our goal is to rent a house or an apartment, or even fully fund a dormitory with utilities and food included, in order to make higher education a possibility for these two bright kids,” Bronenkamp said. “In addition to housing, we want to ensure that they are living in a controlled environment with an eye towards not only developing intellectually but also spiritually.”

This summer, Bronenkamp and Lysek aim to create a business plan, so they can raise the funds needed to educate Mario and Chamba all four years. Their broader goal is to establish a scholarship so more students from small Salvadoran towns can attend university in the country’s capital.

“Cory and I both realize that merely doing weeklong service projects won’t change a country,” Lysek said. “Education is the foundation on which a country is built. If you educate the people, they will have the tools to produce goods for their people, and the people of the world. This will enable the people of El Salvador to raise their country in the world with their own hard work, rather than handouts from rich countries.”

To learn more about their project or to make a donation, contact Cory Bronenkamp at csbronenkamp@stumail.shc.edu. To read about their immersion trip to El Salvador in the Spring Hill College Magazine, visit http://issuu.com/sprhill/docs/shc_spring_mag_2010.

Follow Cory and Michael's blog about their experiences in El Salvador at http://campoeducation.wordpress.com/